How should I choose a copywriter to work with?

12 replies
I have a small, 109-year old family owned manufacturing business in the USA and I am looking to improve the copy used to sell my products.

I haven't used a copywriter before, so I don't know what to expect when looking to work with someone. I have talked to some local ad agencies, but they seem too expensive for a company of my size.

It seems like most copywriters would be able to sell their own service, since that is what they/you do, so how would I know who would be the best fit when selecting a copywriter to work with?

Do I choose the person that I feel the most comfortable with based upon past examples of their work?

Does it matter if they have experience with products similar to mine, or would it be better to find someone with experience selling within the industry I want to target?

If I want to sell the same product to 2 different industries, would I need to work with 2 different copywriters (ie. selling to knife collectors or to machinists)?

Do copywriters send in copy for my product and I pay if I want to use it, do they charge on an hourly basis or a per job basis?

Thank you for your time.
#choose #copywriter #work
  • Profile picture of the author Mark Pescetti
    Here's the question I often start out with (when the conversation actually begins to get serious)...

    "How much money do you want to make from THIS campaign?"

    Or...

    "How much do you want to increase your revenue in a year's time?"

    Think about your answer. And then ask yourself, "How much would I like to invest to 'unlock' the extra profits I want to generate?"

    I'll get back to that in a second, but first...

    Choosing the right copywriter (for you) may be influenced by his or her portfolio. Sure, you can easily be wowed by someone who has an impressive track record.

    But portfolio aside, it's important to get people on the phone... or Skype... and just engage in a conversation.

    I'll tell you one thing for a fact...

    The copywriter you should lean strongly towards hiring is the one who listens to your goals, understands your customers/clients... and outlines a vision for how to move forward.

    Don't just look/listen for what he or she has done. Instead, listen carefully about how he or she talks about positioning your company in a direct response camaign and FEEL if it resonates.

    You have a big legacy. And you want someone who honors that legacy, while taking it into a whole new realm of possibilities.

    Without knowing what you're manufacturing, I can't give you specifics, but maybe there's new positioning potentials? Maybe you can break down your campaigns into niches?

    Are you the face of the brand? Are you passionate about what you do? Good. Let's get you on video with a kick-butt script.

    Do you like to collaborate? Awesome. Pick a copywriter who listens and pushes back with new ideas.

    Getting back to budget...

    Sounds like you might have a unique situation.

    However, I'd never entertain hiring someone by the hour. Get a project outlined. Make sure the goals are clear. Don't be shy about declaring how much money you wanna make, then see what the copywriter quotes. Take it from there.

    Again though...

    Look for someone who has a vision for your company (which means being transparent about past campaigns, their level of success and other important metrics.) Hint: Have them sign an NDA - if you want to protect yourself.

    Good luck....

    Mark
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    • Profile picture of the author GerstnerUSA
      Originally Posted by Mark Pescetti View Post

      Here's the question I often start out with (when the conversation actually begins to get serious)...

      "How much money do you want to make from THIS campaign?"

      Or...

      "How much do you want to increase your revenue in a year's time?"
      Thanks for your advice.

      My product is more of a luxury item that doesn't wear out, and most of our direct customer will only ever purchase 1 or 2 products, so I am constantly looking for new customers.

      I am not sure how to determine a value of the copywriting, or to estimate revenue for copywriting for our products on our website. I say this because, if I don't like the copy we currently have, and we have new copy written, how do we determine if the new copy increased our sales or if it was another factor?
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      • Profile picture of the author Mark Pescetti
        Originally Posted by GerstnerUSA View Post

        Thanks for your advice.

        My product is more of a luxury item that doesn't wear out, and most of our direct customer will only ever purchase 1 or 2 products, so I am constantly looking for new customers.

        I am not sure how to determine a value of the copywriting, or to estimate revenue for copywriting for our products on our website. I say this because, if I don't like the copy we currently have, and we have new copy written, how do we determine if the new copy increased our sales or if it was another factor?
        Well, selling a $1,300 chest isn't rocket science. Your copy doesn't sell it though. Not even remotely.

        Make a video. Feature it. Talk up what a piece like that can do in a person's home. Give it a personality. You could charge double that - if you engage people (who appreciate this kind of craftsmanship) on an emotional level.

        In terms of getting a stream of new leads...

        You need a copywriter/marketer who can flesh out a full funnel and help you build a list.

        There are always people looking for luxury items to make their home come alive. But you need to lead that conversation and make them believe your products are exactly what they're looking for. Again, right now... you're not doing that.

        So when what I'm talking about is done right...

        There should be NO question about measuring your results.

        Mark
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        • Profile picture of the author ewenmack
          To fully maximize what you have, it goes beyond a copywriter.

          A person who can get you seen by the right people
          in the right places as well as craft your message
          that appeals to the big spenders.

          Best,
          Doctor E. Vile
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  • Profile picture of the author splitTest
    Originally Posted by GerstnerUSA View Post

    I have a small, 109-year old family owned manufacturing business in the USA and I am looking to improve the copy used to sell my products.
    If you're the Gerstner from the websites Google brings up, you probably want someone with strong catalog experience. If I were you, I'd look for a former agency/corporate copywriter with strong catalog experience.

    Google that, and also search LinkedIn. Ideally, you might also want to hire someone local (who can come by and check out your craftsmanship, meet with you face to face, etc.).

    Originally Posted by GerstnerUSA View Post

    It seems like most copywriters would be able to sell their own service, since that is what they/you do, so how would I know who would be the best fit when selecting a copywriter to work with?
    Personal opinion: I think a copywriter's website is an important clue to their approach to selling. Yes, you want one who can sell themselves well. How they sell their services can reflect if they're a beginner or not, whether they have corporate experience or not, and the care they're gonna show for their work.

    Lots of typos and broken links? That's not your writer. Garish layout, lots of hyperbole and "scammy" tone? Maybe he's good for certain markets and niches, but not a match for a 109-y.o. company focused on quality and reputation. Portfolio on a free web host with ads on the bottom? Sign of a rank beginner... etc. etc.

    Goes without saying, but you probably want a writer whose website (and samples) suggests professionalism, versatility and that they care about quality and presentation.

    Originally Posted by GerstnerUSA View Post

    Do I choose the person that I feel the most comfortable with based upon past examples of their work?
    Of course! Just as customers choose your products to the extent that they can base a decision on your past work, you should choose a copywriter based on samples of their work. Hopefully you know how to judge copywriting well. If not, read up a bit.

    It's far from rocket science. If you're not sure how to judge copy, grab a copy of Bob Bly's "The Copywriter's Handbook" from your local library. You don't need to be an expert copywriter to understand how copywriting works. A book like that will help you judge copywriting. Of course, you'll also want to factor stuff like track record and specific industry experience, gut feeling and relationship, etc. into your decision.

    Originally Posted by GerstnerUSA View Post

    Does it matter if they have experience with products similar to mine, or would it be better to find someone with experience selling within the industry I want to target?
    Yes and yes. The more specialized experience the better, but it depends on the writer to an extent. Most good writers can bring themselves up to speed on your products/industry/audience, but a good writer with relevant experience is better.

    Originally Posted by GerstnerUSA View Post

    If I want to sell the same product to 2 different industries, would I need to work with 2 different copywriters (ie. selling to knife collectors or to machinists)?
    Depends on the copywriter. Since you're hiring by the job (that is, don't hire by the hour), you can try out a couple of writers, and see which ones work out. Just know what you're looking for and be ready to do a little testing. "The only purpose of advertising is to make sales. ... Force it to justify itself. ... Figure its cost and result. Accept no excuses which good salesmen do not make. Then you will not go far wrong." - Claude Hopkins, Scientific Advertising.

    Don't forget to test, track results, etc. And remember, you're the marketing manager... A copywriter isn't so much "doing it for you" as working with you. You're not just "handing over" the job. It's a partnership of marketing minds... a collaboration. But anyway, since you're working by the job, you can hire a couple writers and answer that question for yourself.

    Originally Posted by GerstnerUSA View Post

    Do copywriters send in copy for my product and I pay if I want to use it, do they charge on an hourly basis or a per job basis?
    Some copywriters will work for an up-front fee plus royalties. Few work on spec (ie. "pay if you want to use it"), except rank beginners trying to build reputation and portfolio. Most work on a per-job basis, and that's probably best for you too.

    I'd say the major thing to do (if you haven't already) is educate yourself on what makes good sales copy. That way you can intelligently judge portfolios of the writers you might want to work with.

    Then, once you get going, make sure you test (if you're mailing to lists) and always track results.

    All in all, know what you're looking for and what you're trying to accomplish ... from choosing a writer all the way through working with him/her. It's an investment. Do your homework, your legwork, educate yourself and make a deliberate decision, if you don't want to waste time and $$.

    There's my $.02. Good luck!
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    • Profile picture of the author GerstnerUSA
      Originally Posted by splitTest View Post

      If you're the Gerstner from the websites Google brings up, you probably want someone with strong catalog experience.
      Yes, my company is the GerstnerUSA you found on Google. I didn't want to put my website in my first post, because it was my first post, and I didn't want to seem to be trying to promote anything.

      Originally Posted by splitTest View Post

      There's my $.02. Good luck!
      If your post was your $.02, please send me your PayPal account info because I've got another $20 worth of questions and you seem to be within my budget...
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  • Profile picture of the author GerstnerUSA
    @Mark

    I didn't think about it that way, which is why I am a woodworker, not a copywriter or in marketing.

    Thank you,
    Scott Campbell
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  • Profile picture of the author BrianMcLeod
    Welcome Scott,

    You've gotten some really solid advice in this thread so far (nice job, gang.)

    You have a 109 year company history and back story to work with, a big plus in terms of differentiation and premium positioning.

    You already know your current website isn't up to the job, so we really don't need to beat that drum.

    I'd suggest you study how this artisan leather goods company markets their superior craftsmanship and high-end bags:

    Saddleback Leather Co.

    They're doing so many things so well over there.

    Now, back to Gerstner...

    Investing in beautiful product photography and professionally designed sales collateral will surely go a long way for you.

    Great copy is absolutely part of that but I'd advise you to strongly consider that this job is significantly deeper than hiring a random freelancer to bang out some pithy new catalog copy for you on the cheap.

    And bear in mind: Rome wasn't built in a day.

    You don't have to do everything at once... time and budget constraints may preclude that possibility anyway.

    But you definitely need to start by taking a thorough inventory of your current marketing assets, processes and results then formulate a workable strategy for getting everything accomplished throughout the course of 2015.

    By this time next year, your business could be performing on a level you may not even be prepared to accept as reasonable from where you're sitting right now.

    I'm glad you posted this, Scott... it's like fresh air in here, honestly.

    Best,

    Brian
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    • Profile picture of the author angiecolee
      Originally Posted by BrianMcLeod View Post


      I'd suggest you study how this artisan leather goods company markets their superior craftsmanship and high-end bags:

      Saddleback Leather Co.

      They're doing so many things so well over there.
      If you hadn't suggested it, I would have. I love what they do.
      Signature

      Aspiring copywriters: if you need 1:1 advice from an experienced copy chief, head over to my Phone a Friend page.

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  • Profile picture of the author WD Mino
    Nice one mac, I like seeing the different uses of the story. This one is pretty cool.

    Cool images too, I guess a picture can tell a story

    Best,
    -WD
    Signature

    "As a man thinks in his heart so is he-Proverbs 23:7"
    Coming Soon http://graphicsdon.com

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  • Profile picture of the author joe golfer
    Some random thoughts:

    -- Good job on the videos. I'd like to see a someone from the company host a few videos. Put a face (or faces) to the Gerstner name. Possibly have one family member act as the host and interview different people in the company about what they do.

    -- Push the quality image to the max. Maybe shoot video interviews of people that own and still use one of the original tool chests from the early 1900s. Sort of like this one:

    -- I would include an offer in the very first email you send them after they sign up on your email list.

    Down the road:

    -- Come up with unique events. What about a city-wide woodworking competition among students in the local high schools? I still have a candle holder that looks like I made after some shock therapy. But some of the other students made some stellar furniture. They would love something like that.

    -- Start a merchandise shop selling products with the Gerstner logo. Golf shirts, woodworking aprons. Sell them in the factory, and give them to local DJs, press, bloggers, etc.
    Signature
    Marketing is not a battle of products. It is a battle of perceptions.
    - Jack Trout
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  • Profile picture of the author turboshandy
    Originally Posted by GerstnerUSA View Post

    Do I choose the person that I feel the most comfortable with based upon past examples of their work?
    Basically.. yes. It's what I would do, every copywriter is different so, if you don't feel comfortable with their style, then they're not the right person for you.
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